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In 1848, Frdric Sorrieu, a French artist, prepared a series of four
prints visualising his dream of a world made up of democratic
and social Republics, as he called them. The first print (Fig. 1) of the
series, shows the peoples of Europe and America men and women
of all ages and social classes marching in a long train, and offering
homage to the statue of Liberty as they pass by it. As you would
recall, artists of the time of the French Revolution personified Liberty
as a female figure here you can recognise the torch of Enlightenment
she bears in one hand and the Charter of the Rights of Man in the
other. On the earth in the foreground of the image lie the shattered
remains of the symbols of absolutist institutions. In Sorrieus
utopian vision, the peoples of the world are grouped as distinct
nations, identified through their flags and national costume. Leading
the procession, way past the statue of Liberty, are the United States
and Switzerland, which by this time were already nation-states. France,
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Fig. 1 The Dream of Worldwide Democratic and Social Republics The Pact Between Nations, a print prepared by
Frdric Sorrieu, 1848.
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I
The Rise of Nationalism in Europe
New words
Absolutist Literally, a government or
system of rule that has no restraints on
the power exercised. In history, the term
refers to a form of monarchical
government that was centralised,
militarised and repressive
Utopian A vision of a society that is so
ideal that it is unlikely to actually exist
In what way do you think this print (Fig. 1)
depicts a utopian vision?
Activity
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identifiable by the revolutionary tricolour, has just reached the statue.
She is followed by the peoples of Germany, bearing the black, red
and gold flag. Interestingly, at the time when Sorrieu created this
image, the German peoples did not yet exist as a united nation the
flag they carry is an expression of liberal hopes in 1848 to unify the
numerous German-speaking principalities into a nation-state under
a democratic constitution. Following the German peoples are the
peoples of Austria, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Lombardy,
Poland, England, Ireland, Hungary and Russia. From the heavens
above, Christ, saints and angels gaze upon the scene. They have
been used by the artist to symbolise fraternity among the nations of
the world.
This chapter will deal with many of the issues visualised by Sorrieu
in Fig. 1. During the nineteenth century, nationalism emerged as a
force which brought about sweeping changes in the political and
mental world of Europe. The end result of these changes was the
emergence of the nation-state in place of the multi-national dynastic
empires of Europe. The concept and practices of a modern state, in
which a centralised power exercised sovereign control over a clearly
defined territory, had been developing over a long period of time
in Europe. But a nation-state was one in which the majority of its
citizens, and not only its rulers, came to develop a sense of common
identity and shared history or descent. This commonness did not
exist from time immemorial; it was forged through struggles, through
the actions of leaders and the common people. This chapter will
look at the diverse processes through which nation-states and
nationalism came into being in nineteenth-century Europe.
Ernst Renan, What is a Nation?
I n a lecture delivered at the University of
Sorbonne in 1882, the French philosopher Ernst
Renan (1823-92) outlined his understanding of
what makes a nation. The lecture was
subsequently published as a famous essay entitled
Quest-ce quune nation? (What is a Nation?).
In this essay Renan criticises the notion suggested
by others that a nation is formed by a common
language, race, religion, or territory:
A nation is the culmination of a long past of
endeavours, sacrifice and devotion. A heroic past,
great men, glory, that is the social capital upon
which one bases a national idea. To have
common glories in the past, to have a common
will in the present, to have performed great deeds
together, to wish to perform still more, these
are the essential conditions of being a people. A
nation is therefore a large-scale solidarity Its
existence is a daily plebiscite A province is its
inhabitants; if anyone has the right to be
consulted, it is the inhabitant. A nation never
has any real interest in annexing or holding on to
a country against its will. The existence of nations
is a good thing, a necessity even. Their existence
is a guarantee of liberty, which would be lost if
the world had only one law and only one master.
Source
Source A
Summarise the attributes of a nation, as Renan
understands them. Why, in his view, are nations
important?
Discuss
New words
Plebiscite A direct vote by which all the
people of a region are asked to accept or reject
a proposal
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1 The French Revolution and the Idea of the Nation
The first clear expression of nationalism came with
the French Revolution in 1789. France, as you
would remember, was a full-fledged territorial state
in 1789 under the rule of an absolute monarch.
The political and constitutional changes that came
in the wake of the French Revolution led to the
transfer of sovereignty from the monarchy to a
body of French citizens. The revolution proclaimed
that it was the people who would henceforth
constitute the nation and shape its destiny.
From the very beginning, the French revolutionaries
introduced various measures and practices that
could create a sense of collective identity amongst
the French people. The ideas of la patrie (the
fatherland) and le citoyen (the citizen) emphasised
the notion of a united community enjoying equal rights under a
constitution. A new French flag, the tricolour, was chosen to replace
the former royal standard. The Estates General was elected by the
body of active citizens and renamed the National Assembly. New
hymns were composed, oaths taken and martyrs commemorated,
all in the name of the nation. A centralised administrative system
was put in place and it formulated uniform laws for all citizens
within its territory. Internal customs duties and dues were abolished
and a uniform system of weights and measures was adopted.
Regional dialects were discouraged and French, as it was spoken
and written in Paris, became the common language of the nation.
The revolutionaries further declared that it was the mission and the
destiny of the French nation to liberate the peoples of Europe
from despotism, in other words to help other peoples of Europe
to become nations.
When the news of the events in France reached the different cities
of Europe, students and other members of educated middle classes
began setting up Jacobin clubs. Their activities and campaigns
prepared the way for the French armies which moved into Holland,
Belgium, Switzerland and much of Italy in the 1790s. With the
outbreak of the revolutionary wars, the French armies began to
carry the idea of nationalism abroad.
Fig. 2 The cover of a German almanac
designed by the journalist Andreas Rebmann in
1798.
The image of the French Bastille being stormed
by the revolutionary crowd has been placed
next to a similar fortress meant to represent the
bastion of despotic rule in the German province
of Kassel. Accompanying the illustration is the
slogan: The people must seize their own
freedom! Rebmann lived in the city of Mainz
and was a member of a German Jacobin group.
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Within the wide swathe of territory that came under his control,
Napoleon set about introducing many of the reforms that he had
already introduced in France. Through a return to monarchy
Napoleon had, no doubt, destroyed democracy in France, but in
the administrative field he had incorporated revolutionary principles
in order to make the whole system more rational and efficient. The
Civil Code of 1804 usually known as the Napoleonic Code
did away with all privileges based on birth, established equality
before the law and secured the right to property. This Code was
exported to the regions under French control. In the Dutch Republic,
in Switzerland, in Italy and Germany, Napoleon simplified
administrative divisions, abolished the feudal system and freed
peasants from serfdom and manorial dues. In the towns too, guild
restrictions were removed. Transport and communication systems
were improved. Peasants, artisans, workers and new businessmen
Fig. 3 Europe after the
Congress of Vienna, 1815.
ICELAND
(DENMARK)
NORWAY
(SWEDEN)
SWEDEN
DENMARK
HABOVER
(G.B.)
NETHERLANDS
ENGLAND
WALES
IRELAND
GREAT
BRITAIN
SCOTLAND
FRANCE
SPAIN
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ALGERIA
TUNIS
EGYPT
PALESTINE
SYRIA
CYPRUS
MESOPOTAMIA
ARMENIA
OTTOMAN EMPIRE
CRETE
GREECE
BULGARIA
ROMANIA
SERBIA
HUNGARY
AUSTRIAN EMPIRE
AUSTRIA
GALICIA
BAVARIA
SWITZERLAND
PRUSSIA
POLAND
RUSSIAN EMPIRE
SARDINIA
CORSICA
SMALL
STATES
KINGDOM
OF THE
TWO
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GEORGIA
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ATLANTIC SEA
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enjoyed a new-found freedom. Businessmen and small-scale
producers of goods, in particular, began to realise that uniform
laws, standardised weights and measures, and a common national
currency would facilitate the movement and exchange of goods
and capital from one region to another.
However, in the areas conquered, the reactions of the local
populations to French rule were mixed. Initially, in many places such
as Holland and Switzerland, as well as in certain cities like Brussels,
Mainz, Milan and Warsaw, the French armies were welcomed as
harbingers of liberty. But the initial enthusiasm soon turned to hostility,
as it became clear that the new administrative arrangements did not
go hand in hand with political freedom. Increased taxation,
censorship, forced conscription into the French armies required to
conquer the rest of Europe, all seemed to outweigh the advantages
of the administrative changes.
Fig. 4 The Planting of Tree of Liberty in Zweibrcken, Germany.
The subject of this colour print by the German painter Karl Kaspar Fritz is the occupation of the town of Zweibrcken
by the French armies. French soldiers, recognisable by their blue, white and red uniforms, have been portrayed as
oppressors as they seize a peasants cart (left), harass some young women (centre foreground) and force a peasant
down to his knees. The plaque being affixed to the Tree of Liberty carries a German inscription which in translation
reads: Take freedom and equality from us, the model of humanity. This is a sarcastic reference to the claim of the
French as being liberators who opposed monarchy in the territories they entered.
Fig. 5 The courier of Rhineland loses all that
he has on his way home from Leipzig.
Napoleon here is represented as a postman on
his way back to France after he lost the battle of
Leipzig in 1813. Each letter dropping out of his
bag bears the names of the territories he lost.